My Trip to Fiji
I spent the month of May in Fiji. It was a dream come true, after years of wanting to go on an international mission trip. To be honest, even after Pepperdine’s International Program’s orientation, I had very little clue as to what I was doing in Fiji. I knew we were doing something with medical work (after all, it was a medical mission trip). However, I could have sworn that we were going to backpack through a jungle to get to the Mission, the place we stayed at (we didn’t).
A typical day in Fiji consisted of working at the Mission, doing rotations (helping out in the clinic, kitchen, laundry room, grounds work, etc.). In the afternoons, we taught at the local schools. There were other days where we helped either in the surrounding villages by doing ground work, playing with the kids, and putting on a huge dance party for the women as a way of teaching exercises. We also got to be a part of an AMAZING program called Days for Girls, which, as it says on their website, “[creates] a more dignified, free, and educated world through access to lasting feminine hygiene solutions.” As a part of the program, we got to help make the kits and also help with the education of how to use the kits. Also as a part of the program, we climbed a volcano, jumped off a waterfall hiked through a jungle to the Cannibal Caves, journeyed to resort that can only be reached by boat, and enjoyed local feasts.
By the time it was over, I came back with improved cooking skills, knowledge on how to use a sewing machine, and an ability to kill spiders. However, given everything I got to experience, what I loved most was learning about the heart of the Fijians in the everyday moments. Every single person I met, both Fijians and Pepperdine students, poured their heart out into what they did. They didn’t just talk about serving God, but they lived it out. Being in Fiji, for both my team and especially myself, was an opportunity to deepen my understanding of humility. Thanks to Dr. Storm, my team got to read and discuss a book called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller. Keller defines humility to be “not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.” When I think about what I want my career to be in my life, I sometimes get it confused with my purpose in life. My purpose isn’t in a specific career, but it’s to love and serve God no matter where I am. The people who surrounded me and loved me throughout my time there truly lived out the concept of humility as they served God in everything they did. As my teammate Morgan put it, “we learn about God through other people.” Through each relationship I made, through learning Fiji’s culture, I grew closer to God.
When I came back from Fiji, for the first two weeks, I had to stop myself from saying “bula” whenever I greeted someone. As silly as it seems, the word has come to mean so much for me. Bula is a word that means not only “hello,” but also “life.” To greet someone by saying “Bula” is also to wish life upon them. Without a doubt, my experience in Fiji was so incredibly life giving thanks to the big hearts of every individual I got to spend my time with. No blog post or any amount of words can express how rich Fiji’s culture is, the love I felt, or anything about the experience itself.
To my Pepperdine family, vina’a va’a levu. Thank you for your love and friendship, for singing at the top of your lungs on the bus trips, for playing card games like Rich man/ Poor Man, for the times I might have used your bug spray or medicine, for all the advice you gave me, (to the guys) for being complete gentlemen at each of the meals, and for the countless other moments. Special thanks to Dr. Storm, Casey, Diane, and Steve for all the hard work you put into preparing the trip so we could have a good time.
To my Fijian family, vina’a va’a levu. Thank you for pouring out your hearts in the short time that I was there. Thank you for making it a memory to treasure. Thank you for killing bugs that I didn’t want to kill. Thank you for teaching me to cook. Thank you for the coconuts that you guys cut, for the cinnamon rolls, the popcorn, the cassava fries, and the countless other dishes you made. Thank you for your stories, for your jokes, for your beautiful voices during worship and when we’d ask you to sing. Thank you for that awesome skit you guys put on during morning worship. Thank you for your laughter, your kindness, and your love. Thank you for the time you made to simply just get to know me. Thank you for accepting me into part of your family. I learned so, so much during each moment I spent with all of you. Without a doubt, you’ve touched my heart forever. Special thanks to Dr. Anibal and Noni, an awesome couple from Argentina, for everything you did for our team.
And one final thing: CONGRATULATIONS TO FIJI ON WINNING THEIR FIRST GOLD MEDAL IN THE OLYMPICS FOR RUGBY! (I know the Olympics has passed, but if you haven’t seen the video of the Fijian team accepting their medals and singing in perfect harmony, you should check it out).
*Note: photos don’t include all the amazing people I met*